In the line of duty, I’ve seen some doozy zombies over the years (who could ever forget the beauties in I Am Legend?), but the ones in this overblown teen sci-fi epic take the cadaver in the freak-out stakes. Quite late in proceedings, as though included as an afterthought, the first of them emerges dripping scum from the wall of an unlit cavern and chomps the head off a poor mangy rat before making slavering pursuit of our heroes.
Honestly, I had to laugh out loud. A brief re-cap at the beginning of the movie is intended to keep us up to speed with at what stage of manic flight and rebellion the cute youngsters have found themselves, but it’s all starting to look like a gluggy overcooked stew of Hunger Games, Divergent and Maze Runner 1 (the latest instalment of which might have more accurately been sub-titled ‘The Skid Marks’). As is the genre’s rule, the story is post-apocalypse in its setting and, another mandatory component, the rulers are a bunch of cruel fascist bastards. There is some sort of plague devastating the established order and youngsters are being farmed for their bodies’ fluids in the ongoing research to find a vaccine. Having escaped their oppressors, the ‘Gladers’ strike out for the promise of freedom in the distant mountains. The alpha-male in the group, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), bears an unsettling resemblance to Tony Perkins’s Norman Bates, but the kids love him and, by Jove, he does manage to come up with the goods, albeit at the last excruciating minute, as the bizarrely cast Patricia Clarkson’s heavies chase them here and there. How they happened to find themselves zonked out in a scene reminiscent of a party at Andy Warhol’s factory was no more baffling to me than the divine Patsy Cline’s Walking After Midnight being played while a warehouse is razed to the ground as the Gladers flee from it. But never mind, it’ll be on again next year – although I doubt that they’ll be able to improve on those zombies.